The Declining Winter: Endless Scenery
My Autumn Empire: Last Year's Leaves - Tape Reflections Vol.1
Whether by accident or design, these limited-edition, hand-numbered releases by The Declining Winter and My Autumn Empire are very much companion volumes, each one trafficking in a rustic folk-oriented style with vocals more prominent in the former than the latter. Contemplative moods are sustained throughout both, resulting in cohesive sets that hold up singly and together. The two recordings also share a bedroom-styled quality that lends them an appealingly intimate character.
The Declining Winter's Endless Scenery is the album-length release of the two and also the project of Richard Adams, otherwise known as the co-founder of Hood (on hiatus since 2005) and a member of both Memory Drawings and Great Panoptique Winter. Though The Declining Winter is new to Sound In Silence, four albums appeared on labels such as Rusted Rail and Home Assembly Music prior to Endless Scenery. In the opening title track, warbling acoustic guitars and hushed, reverb-heavy vocals set the tone for the forty-minute album, with the chiming latticework of multi-layered guitars imbuing the song with a pronounced pastoral feel. During “When He Was Alive,” the hushed vocal delivery and dream-like ambiance of its acoustic-electronic sound design collapses whatever distance separates The Declining Winter from Benoit Pioulard. On an album that largely features vocals, the short instrumental “The Shifting Pattern” catches one's ear with its vibraphone-and-guitar combination.
Endless Scenery is very much a solo affair: everything on the album is performed by Adams except for samples of hammered dulcimer and violin that appear in the plodding “On Trembling Hill” courtesy of his Memory Drawings bandmates Joel Hanson and Sarah Kemp. Adams also at times pushes beyond the organic acoustic realm by working into the songs an occasional field recording, percussive detail, and ambient synthesizer. Though it's a modest recording with respect to ambition, it's nevertheless an inviting one, especially when its nine quietly haunting songs give off such warmth and are tinged with melancholy. As a result, the album's pretty much guaranteed to appeal to fans of TalkTalk, Benoit Pioulard, and, of course, Hood.
Also making its first appearance on the label is My Autumn Empire, the solo endeavour of multi-instrumentalist Benjamin Thomas Holton. He brings ample experience to the twenty-two-minute release, having produced music for almost twenty years as part of Epic45 and under other aliases. Nicely supplemented by a sheet of eight poems written by Andrew Taylor (inspired by the music on the release), Last Year's Leaves – Tape Reflections Vol:1 forms a natural complement to Holton's Dreams Of Death And Other Favourites album, which he recently released on his own Wayside & Woodland Recordings imprint.
It's almost half the length of Endless Scenery, but Last Year's Leaves – Tape Reflections Vol:1 is also the melodically stronger of the two (to cite two examples, the stately vignette “The Angle Shades” and lilting “The Treble Lines” showcase Holton's strong melodic gifts), even if most of the eight lo-fi pieces, which Holton recorded at home using an old 4-track tape recorder, are instrumentals. At the start, “The Light Brocade” warms the heart with its gently hopeful acoustic guitar melodies, and the music's delicate shimmer remains potent even when Holton blankets it with layers of ambient sounds; even more stirring is “The Uncertain Moth,” which chimes with a campfire-like fervour that's hard to resist.
At first sounding like a lost moodscape from an early Eno ambient album, “The Dark Spectacle” steps gently into view with piano-like twinklings eventually accompanied by electric guitar shadings, and when hushed vocals surface in “The Beautiful Golden Y,” Last Year's Leaves – Tape Reflections Vol:1 begins to sound even closer in spirit to Endless Scenery than it does otherwise. These wee, rickety songs possess no small amount of charm, and if they ooze an autumnal feel it might be due in part to the fact that they were laid down during Holton's favourite season.